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Dick Clark’s ageless legacy

QUESTION: How many careers did Dick Clark launch or foster? How many millions of Americans watched the 7,500-plus shows he produced? How many lives did he touch? ANSWER: Immeasurable!

I never met the man. I never actually pursued it. And it’s ironic, because all the tributes and testimonials I read were by people I have known for years! Legends like Little Anthony, Neil Sedaka, Danny & The Juniors, Frankie Avalon, Frankie Valli, Tom Dreesen, Mary Wilson, Pat Boone, James Darren, Nancy Sinatra … the list goes on and on. All good friends of ours, and all who attribute their careers to Dick Clark.

At each of our shows, I always try to facilitate fans’ meet-and-greet with the stars. After they nervously shake their hand, take a photo and get an autograph, they usually thank me for helping them with the “bucket list” item of meeting their idol.

Again, a bit of irony, as DC was on MY bucket list. He epitomized what I wanted to be when I grew up. A well-respected and widely loved conduit between music and the masses. Not an actual performer, yet an entertainer in his own right, he was somebody who brought joy to millions via song, dance and a familiar smile.

I think I never really pursued the intro because inside I kind of felt a warm familiarity with him. With so many single degrees of separation between us, coupled with the too-many-to-count times I saw him on one show or another, it was as if he was by my house for pasta the night before.

With all those fabulous rock ‘n’ roll moments we all witnessed over the years, I think my favorite Dick Clark moment was his last “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.” Still handsome with the boyish good looks, he struggled with his speech after a terrible stroke. He kept his diginity, though, and also kept his tradition of kissing his beloved wife at midnight. Although the kiss was physically awkward for him, he did it with a passion I have rarely seen. It showed a love that not even a massive stroke could stifle.

It seems the legacy of rock stars gets grander upon their death. Their music lives on for generations. Their images get plastered on coffee mugs and mouse pads and refrigerator magnets. But guys like Dick Clark usually don’t have that kind of staying power. My 7-year-old daughter will grow up and know who Sinatra, Elvis and Michael were.

I will do my best to tell her about Dick Clark and “American Bandstand.” More importantly, I’ll tell her to be aggressive in pursuing her “bucket list.”

Ron Onesti is the President/CEO of The Onesti Entertainment Corporation and The Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. Send comments or celebrity questions to ron@oshows.com.

About Ron Onesti

Ron Onesti is the CEO and president of Onesti Entertainment Corp. For the past three decades, he has produced Chicago's most popular Italian festivals, and also owns the historic Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. Producing more than 200 live concerts each year, Ron has worked with some of music's most loved entertainers. Frankie Valli, Mickey Rooney, Connie Francis, and Jersey Boys, as well as stars Joan Rivers, Bret Michaels, and Don Rickles, have all graced the stage of the Arcada Theatre. He is a gourmet cook and journalist, writing a weekly column for the Daily Herald and hosting his own show on WGN. Ron lives in Wood Dale with his wife, Elena, and their daughter, Giuliana.